Fanny van Gastel, Bieze Food Solutions:

"Since COVID, the turnover of pre-packaged pomegranate seeds and de-crowned strawberries has skyrocketed"

The fruit processing site of Bieze Food Group from Ossendrecht will no longer go by the name of Brabantsche Wal this year, but rather Bieze Food Group Ossendrecht. "We received so many questions about the supposed link between our old name and the asparagus grown here that we said goodbye to it", says commercial manager Fanny van Gestel. The location has been developed into an ultra-modern processing facility.

After all, asparagus are no longer processed at Bieze Food Group Ossendrecht, soft fruit and pomegranate seeds are. "In recent years, we have played a pioneering role in this and we want to roll it out further," Fanny says. All commercial tasks have now been integrated within Bieze Food Solutions, so the sales of all applications such as dairy, salad spreads and ultra-fresh products have been brought together within one team.

Within the group, Fanny is the expert on fresh produce convenience products. "We make a lot of use of the synergy between the various expertises within the group. With the entire team, we make monthly analyses of how the convenience shelf is structured and what the wishes of the retailer and ultimately the consumer are, so that we can come up with new formulas. We focus mainly on the Dutch and Belgian supermarkets, supplemented by a few cutting companies. The great thing is that the products we produce today can be on the retailer's shelves tonight."

One of the runners up in the range is the pre-packed pomegranate seeds. "Since the COVID outbreak, many more people have started to cook for themselves and have discovered new products at home. The pomegranate seeds have really caught on, because no one wants to pick them out themselves. Thanks to our pitting machine we can handle large volumes", says Fanny, enthusiastically.

Bieze Food Solutions works directly with pomegranate growers from the Mediterranean region. "Nine months a year we can supply them with our pomegranates via road transport. Because we buy directly from the source, we only select the best quality. You won't find pale pomegranate seeds here, only beautiful deep red ones", Fanny emphasises. "For sustainability reasons we source as much as possible from the Mediterranean area to avoid air freight, only occasionally do we need pomegranates from Peru or South Africa to bridge the season. From these countries, too, they come by boat and not by air freight. That's is a no-go for us!"

Whereas pomegranate seeds were less well known, the same is not true of strawberries, but according to Fanny, sales of cut strawberries have also shown an upward trend in recent years. "People are buying more cut strawberries - without sugars or additives - to take straight to the beach or picnic. For the purchase of the strawberries, we work closely with high-quality growers. Some growers pick their strawberries for us in special packaging, with their varieties and quality standards translated to our needs. After all, you can't cut and package just any strawberry. The weather is very nice right now, but for strawberries it is very challenging to keep the quality up."

According to Fanny, the biggest challenge for the coming years is to continue to guarantee the current quality level despite the increased demand and to keep the supply under control in view of the increased energy and packaging prices.

"That is why we want to continue to innovate, so that we are firmly established as a high-quality supplier. In doing so, we mainly focus on end consumer packaging, because that's where we can really make a difference with our products - for example, as a topping on yoghurt!"

For more information:
Fanny van Gestel 
BIeze Food Solutions
Tel: +32 (0) 4 78250448

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